Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans
Quebec authorities are trying to commit “genocide” on members of Lev Tahor, the group’s leader says in a video released Friday.
Grand Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans says in the 18-minute video that his fundamentalist Jewish sect had no choice but to move from Ste-Agathe to Chatham late last year in order to avoid a Quebec judge’s ruling to remove 14 children from two Lev Tahor families.
“What choice do we have? We came to Ontario,” said Helbrans, who referred to Nazi persecution and claimed Quebec authorities “want to destroy us, to obliterate us… They want to commit a genocide.”
Helbrans said his group tried to work with children’s aid workers in Quebec, as well as police and the courts, but that no one would listen to Lev Tahor members.
“This place was full with joyful children, playing with such happiness and charm, with such purity and innocence,” Helbrans said in the video, which appears to have been made in front of a few followers shortly before sunset on Feb. 6. “The children would never tease or harm anyone. No one has ever harmed the children, at least not from our community.”
Helbrans, who was among the last of more than 200 Lev Tahor community members to leave Ste-Agathe, said the group’s “persecution” originally started with Israeli authorities. The rabbi said the Isreali government refuses to accept Lev Tahor’s stand against Zionism. He said his group practices a purer interpretation of the Torah.
“The Creator knows the truth, that we have not committed in the village a single crime,” Helbrans said. “We did not break any Canadian or Quebec law.”
Lev Tahor’s move to Ontario has provided the group a reprieve. But they still face legal troubles. An Ontario judge earlier this month ruled that the children in question must return to Quebec, though Lev Tahor was given 30 days to appeal the Ontario ruling.
Meanwhile, the Jewish group has been enjoying support in Chatham.
Dave Formosa, the founder of a human rights Facebook group, has organized a peace rally from 1 to 3 p.m. on Feb. 25 near the Chatham-Kent Court House, to show Lev Tahor members that they have friends in the greater community.
“We really greatly appreciate this kind of support and we want to thank everybody for that,” Uriel Goldman, a Lev Tahor spokesman, told the Star Friday. “All the time people are coming and saying good words, every single day.
“They understand that we are getting persecuted and they do not agree.”